Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Why Physics has made no Progress in 50 Years

In the foundations of physics, we have not seen progress since the mid 1970s when the standard model of particle physics was completed. Ever since then, the theories we use to describe observations have remained unchanged. Sure, some aspects of these theories have only been experimentally confirmed later. The last to-be-confirmed particle was the Higgs-boson, predicted in the 1960s, measured in 2012. But all shortcomings of these theories – the lacking quantization of gravity, dark matter, the quantum measurement problem, and more – have been known for more than 80 years. And they are as unsolved today as they were then. The major cause of this stagnation is that physics has changed, but physicists have not changed their methods. As physics has progressed, the foundations have become increasingly harder to probe by experiment. Technological advances have not kept size and expenses manageable. This is why, in physics today, we have collaborations of thousands of people operating [More]

How to Achieve Political Progress after Electoral Defeat

Democracy can be frustrating; our hard-won right to participate in the task of collective self-government often results in disappointment and exasperation. What’s more, in the wake of a political defeat, democracy’s sole consolation is ‘continue working’; if you lose at the polls, you mustn’t resign or withdraw, but instead turn to the next election and begin anew. Citizenship takes persistence. And in both emotional and practical terms, that’s asking a lot.Yet democracy is demanding in another way as well. It requires a certain ethos, a moral stance towards our fellow citizen. We must acknowledge that they are entitled to an equal political say even if they hold views that we regard as unconscionable. What’s more, if our opponent prevails at the polls, we must hold that it is right for democracy to enact the policies they favor.The democratic ethos hence appears tragically fraught. How can we stand both for what’s right and acquiesce in an arrangement that gives ‘error’ an equal say? [More]

Journal of the History of Philosophy Article Prize

The Board of Directors of the Journal of the History of Philosophy has selected Jessica Moss (New York University) and Whitney Schwab (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) as the winners of the journal’s 2019 Best Article Prize.  Their winning article, “The Birth of Belief,” appeared in the January, 2019 issue (volume 57, number 1). Here’s the abstract of their article: It is widely accepted that doxa, which plays a major role in Plato’s and Aristotle’s epistemologies, is the Ancient counterpart of belief. We argue against this consensus: doxa is not generic taking-to-be-true, but instead something closer to mere opinion. We then show that Plato shows little sign of interest in the generic notion of belief; it is Aristotle who systematically develops that notion, under the rubric of hupolêpsis (usually translated as ‘supposition’), a much-overlooked notion that is, we argue, central to his epistemology. We close by considering the significance of this development, outlining the shifts in epistemological concerns enabled by the birth of belief as a philosophical notion. Honorable Mention for the prize went to Jon McGinnis (University of Missouri, St. Louis) for “A Continuation of Atomism: Shahrastānī on the Atom and Continuity,” which appeared in the journal in October, 2019 (volume 57, number 4). Here’s its abstract: The present study investigates the atomism of Muḥammad ibn ‘Abd al-Karīm al-Shahrastānī (c. 1075–1153). [More]

Philosophy of Sports: From a Wrestling Plato to Modern AI

Philosophy of Sports: From a Wrestling Plato to Modern AIBy Keith TidmanThe towering ancient Greek philosophers were not immune to the allure of athletic competition. Much to the contrary. Take Socrates, for example, who once uttered, in an outpouring of unabashed sports partisanship,             “I swear it upon Zeus, an outstanding runner cannot be the equal of an average wrestler.”Plato might have blushed if he had overheard Socrates, as Plato — whose name was derived from “platon,” or broad-shouldered — was himself a wrestler, who in the 5th century BCE competitively wrestled in the Isthmian Games. Such realities, along with the astonishing thousand-year history of the original Olympic Games, speak to the reverential place of sports, athleticism, and physical training in human development and enrichment those many centuries ago. So, fast forwarding, what are the purposes — from virtues to vices — of sports in today’s world? I’ll focus on two related themes: Ethical values and character building; and imitation of society and life.Ethics is a key place to start in assessing the purposes of sports. Indeed, ancient Athens, Sparta, and Rome, as did earlier civilizations (like Egypt and China), accentuated the importance of physical activity to the development of a moral foundation and in coming to an understanding of one’s ethical duty. That is, the rigors of athletics were viewed as essential in complementing the rigors of academics and of [More]

Programming with categories

One of the books I’d set aside until the main work on IFL2 was done and dusted is Brendan Fong and David Spivak’s An Invitation to Applied Category Theory (CUP, 2019 — there’s a late version freely available here). I’ve now … Continue reading → The post Programming with categories appeared first on Logic [More]

A Threat to the Quality of Academic Research in France (guest post by Philippe Huneman)

The following is a guest post* by Philippe Huneman, Professor and Director of Research at Institut d’Histoire et de Philosophie des Sciences (CNRS / Paris I Sorbonne). A Threat to the Quality of Academic Research in France by Philippe Huneman French academics have been shaken in recent months by the declarations of Antoine Petit, director of the major national research organization, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS). His vision of the future of the CNRS poses a threat to the quality of academic research in France, as it would drastically diminish the amount of permanent positions and intensify project-based competition for diminishing resources. Founded in 1939 to encompass all disciplines, to support worldwide collaboration, and to sponsor major scientific projects, the CNRS is a preeminent European research organization, employing 25,000 people including 11,500 permanent researchers. Most CNRS researchers consider that given their funding levels—2.4 million dollars, compared for example to the University of California’s budget of 3.2 million dollars—they are scoring quite well in international competitions and rankings. The CNRS is the number-one recipient of grants from the European Research Commission, for instance, and stands at first or second place in all rankings of research institutions, as well as in the number of publications in Nature. It also counts a substantial number of Nobel Prize laureates as members, as well as [More]

Should we respect older people more than we respect middle aged or young adults

Read another response about Ethics Ethics Share Should we respect older people more than we respect middle aged or young adults or children? Sure, the answer seems to be "no", but it seems to me a good idea to have some special respect for my mother, some "more" respect than I have for my (middle-aged) brothers, and I would like my children to show some special respect for their grandmother too. Does this make [More]

There is an argument against the logical problem of evil that says God lets evil

Read another response about Religion Religion Share There is an argument against the logical problem of evil that says God lets evil exist in the world as a world where humans have free will and evil exists is preferable to a world where evil does not exist, but humans do not have free will. And so God is indeed omnipotent, omniscient and benevolent, even though evil exists. But what about a world where we simply believe we have free will? Would it not be preferable to have a world with no suffering and just illusory free will? The arguments that free will results in better human character or an appreciation for goodness are unneeded if there's no free will for us in the first place. It makes no difference to us if our actions are actually morally significant or not so why not just have us believe they are and create a world with no suffering? (Unless God is either not omnipotent, omniscient and [More]

What purpose does humanity as a whole serve? Considering that the majority of

Read another response about Value Value Share What purpose does humanity as a whole serve? Considering that the majority of people in this world struggle just to survive on a day-to-day basis, and that those in developed countries struggle to maintain the status quo or at best to improve their lot in life, what purpose do we serve? Very few of us have our needs met in such a way that we can devote all our time to pursuits of thought and charity, and of those few who meet the criteria, fewer still can be bothered to devote their time to the betterment of humanity. I see no useful purpose to humanity as a whole and in fact see humanity as a blight & plague upon the world. We can't survive with the nature around us, in terms of food, but nature can not only survive without humans, but would actually be better off without us; so what use is humanity to the world around us, and what, if any, purpose does humanity serve? [More]